TD warns of 'welfare economy lifestyle'
There were no Government defections in the first vote on the controversial Social Welfare Bill, which the Coalition won last night by a comfortable 87 to 52 votes.
Former parliamentary party members Róisín Shortall, Tommy Broughan and Patrick Nulty voted against the Bill as expected. Labour chairman Colm Keaveney, whose concerns about cuts in the Bill had created speculation that he might vote against the Bill, sided with the Government.
A subsequent vote to stop further debate on the Bill was won by the same margin and Sinn Féin then called for a walk-through vote which the Government won. The Bill gives effect to the budget provisions including cuts in child benefit, respite care and PRSI allowances but Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said it provided opportunities for 20,000 people who had been excluded from the employment market.
Ms Burton hit out at complaints that there was not more time given to the Bill. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin estimated there would be eight minutes for the committee stage debate on the respite care cuts.
Ms Burton said last night “I do regret that 90 minutes this morning tabled for the Bill was lost in disputes that did not relate to social welfare”.
Fine Gael backbencher Derek Keating called for a review of social welfare payments for women who have a number of children with “multiple fathers”. Mr Keating said the State should not be funding services for these women “because of the failings of the fathers of these children”.
He claimed he had found “multiple such cases” of women caring “not for one child or two, but for three and four children by multiple fathers who are uncaring and failing in their duties of care and support, with the consequences picked up by the taxpayer”.
He claimed this “increased dependency on the State encourages a new lifestyle of welfare economy”. He said “a woman will have a lone parent allowance, children’s allowance, rent subsidy, school grants, a medical card, fuel allowance and special payments from the community welfare officer which come under section 13 of the Social Welfare Act for exceptional payments”.
“This simply cannot continue. It is morally and socially wrong. The State cannot continue to pick up this expense for these new arrangements where men, irresponsible fathers who do not accept their responsibilities, are simply coming and going in a blended family type relationship.”
In the debate Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher hit out at Ms Burton, claiming she had been “acting as the Florence Nightingale of the Social Welfare Bill, as if she is not responsible for the cuts to respite care grants, to child benefit, to the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance, to farm assist, to jobseeker’s benefit, to the redundancy payments scheme, to the supplementary welfare allowance, to the back-to-education allowance, to the respite care grant, and to household benefit, telephone benefit and other packages for existing recipients”. He said she was “as culpable as the four horsemen of austerity”– the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure.
Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer hit out at the “hypocrisy” of Fianna Fáil. “You fiddled the country and you bankrupted and you come in here and play on the fears of vulnerable people. Shame on you,” he shouted.